Grit Blogs > Back to the Land

Til the Cows Come Home

My girls and I were on our way to AWANA last Wednesday night  when I got a call from a friend. She had a dairy cow that had broken its leg. Their own freezers were full so did we want it. I directed her to call my husband (Rick) since I was not going to be home that night. While I was at women’s Bible study, they worked out all the details, and Rick (my husband) found another couple that would come help for exchange of half the meat, and called his boss to schedule a vacation day the next day so we could process the cow. As an high school agriculture teacher, I have had classes in meat science, tour numerous processing plants, and taught meat science to students, but to tell the truth I was a little intimidated with the prospect of doing it myself. I was worried that we would not get the retail cuts done correctly, but as a group we decided to just do stew meat and ground beef. Our decision was based on that typically dairy cows have an extremely low fat percentage and the older the cow the tougher the meat. Any meat from our cow may be dry and tough. Grinding the meat cuts the tissue down into smaller sizes and I will can the stew meat so water and slow cooking will aid by adding moisture and breaking up the tougher fibers. A person may also add fat or mix ground pork to add fat and flavor to extremely low fat meat. 
By 9 AM the next day, we had the cow at our house. We made her comfortable and gave her a half an hour to relax before we would start. Our help arrived a short time later and we got started. We said a little prayer for the cow thanking the Lord, our friends and the cow itself for providing our families with meat to eat.  We were comforted by the fact we could end the cow’s pain. Rick provided the cow with a very quick death by shooting it in the head at a close range. 

The men worked quickly to hang the carcass up and drain the blood. The blood is full of nitrogen and will be spread throughout the garden. The next step was to remove front feet and head, then the hide. The hide is removed from the high point (back legs of hanged properly) down. This allows gravity to aid in removal.   The hide was stretched and is currently drying. The offal or guts are then removed, by tying off the anus with string, then cutting through the hide (but not into guts) down from anus to throat. The guts should roll out and be removed. Offal was fed to the pigs this time. Maybe next time I will save soup bone and such. For the sake of time and our own learning curve, the pigs ate well (and loved it.)

Rick and friend working 

The carcass was then cut into quarters and moved to a table were the group worked on cutting it off the bones and removed connective tissue.  We didn’t cut the injured leg quarter up due to blood clots and injured tissue. After getting the quarters cut into manageable pieces, we moved into the house and cut the large pieces into stew meat and smaller chunks that could fit into the meat grinder. As typical of dairy cows, the meat was very lean. Some pieces looked just like tuna. We ground about 150 lbs of beef and bagged 30 pounds of stew meat. I packaged the meat in 2 lb packages, but I think they probably weighed close to 2½ to 3 lbs. 

table work 

I canned the stew meat in quart sized jars with a tablespoon of boullion. I processed them in a pressure canner at 10 lbs for 90 minutes.  

A special thanks goes out to Sarah and Mr B for helping provide for our family.